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Old Dogs and New Tricks!

In a world infatuated with youth and beauty, Vilma was already nine – ‘old’ in comparison to other APROP residents. Though she was, and will always be, gorgeous. Despite the volunteer’s best efforts she found the Protectora environment stressful, was prone to barking and didn’t keep her home clean. Not exactly putting her best paw forward to potential adoptees … 

I’d grown up around dogs (our home was the unofficial rescue centre), and had since provided a free dog hotel for friends but had always been adamant that having my own dog wasn’t compatible with our lifestyle. Flitting between the UK and Spain we spent our time, climbing, cycling and away on travel adventures. But I thought fostering her would enable her to present herself in a more favourable light so she could find her forever home…. Of course, that was right here with us!!!

Once in a home environment her behaviour dramatically improved, there was no barking and she always asked to go out for a pee and was happy just sunbathing in the garden. Lockdown arrived a few weeks after Vilma. The worlds’ upheaval provided the perfect quietness for a dog who needed to de-stress. In a world of limited dogs and minimal commotion, Vilma rediscovered her smell, learned to explore and began to relax. At first she was anxious when we tried to take her up hills – broken ground, vegetation and the rock steps underfoot meant we had to abandon some early walks so as not to overwhelm her. But she was a superfast learner and before long she had her ‘happy ears’ on and was a regular in the hills with us. 

Returning to the UK, provided a whole new challenge for her. Were sheep extra big dogs? Best bark anyway! Cows, bit scary so will try run away… Everything was new, nothing smelled the same – and there was a lot of barking!! We researched techniques to help her, played games to build her confidence and started getting her to make eye contact to keep her attention on us when she felt threatened by the unfamiliar. She’s still learning…

Back in Spain again, now she regularly does 5 and 6 hours walks in the hills, takes herself off exploring while we’re climbing, loves playing beach Frisbee and simply adores playing ball. Chicken and tuna are her favourite meals, she appreciates regular tummy and neck rubs and her bed is her chill zone. Great at making people-friends, she still finds other dogs challenging. We love her to pieces and spoil her just a “teeny” bit to make up for ‘the hard years’. 

Who wouldn’t want to start each day by being woken by a wagging tail banging against the bed?! And who’d want a puppy when they can have a delighful gorgeous grown-up dog?!

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Jo Partington